When mistaking a steering column lock problem for the ignition switch

In my previous article “ A week on the road with Lorin Andrei Chirila” I was talking among other things, about DIY kind of repair on a 2007 Mercedes Sprinter, where a faulty steering lock was mistaken for a bad ignition switch, and that happened on two occasions which I will detail soon. In the same article, I have also talked about a Mercedes Sprinter where the ignition switch had been stolen, and this will bring my third talking point about how to secure the vans and ignition switch better. So now, let’s dig into it, shall we…

DIY sometimes works, but when it doesn’t an auto locksmith is the second-best option

One of the jobs that Lorin and I attended was in Ipswich, a town located about 80 miles North East of London. Here, we were greeted by our customer with a little smile on his face and a glimpse of hope that Lorin would be able to locate the problem and fix it. Now, let me please go back and tell you what the problem was or better yet what our customer thought that the problem was and by that I mean his friend thought the problem was. It all started with the fact that the van did not start and it was automatically assumed that the ignition switch is the problem and proceeded as such to repair it. When that didn’t work, then it was assumed that there may be a wiring problem and before he knew it almost the entire dashboard was taken apart.

rv van Mercedes Sprinter

In all fairness, I would have to say that this gentleman has bought the van/RV a couple of weeks before with the intent of taking a trip to Portugal which let’s say, was to be beneficial to his health. What he didn’t expect instead to have extra expenses related to the vehicle so soon, which in return meant less for the trip. Now, fast forward, vehicle torn apart, no solution to the problem, possibly the trip under question whether it will happen or not, given the amount of money he would have to spend to have the van repaired which that was an unknown to him. But that was before he called us according to him.

Now finding the problem

After a few investigations it was concluded that the culprit here was not the ignition switch as it was originally believed, but the steering column lock. So, now, here is what happened. Because this friend of our customer believed that the ignition switch was the problem, he proceeded to take it apart and do some work on the circuit board that was not only not needed but turned a fully functional ignition switch into a non-functional one. What did this mean for our customer? Well, for sure an unexpected expense and a lesson that he will not forget soon,  at least that is what he told me. There is something else that I should mention, while I am at it. Lorin tried for an hour to save the ignition switch, doing all the tricks that he had up his sleeve but, with no success. So, our customer was left with a new ignition switch, new steering column lock and a whole bunch of work that he created for himself in terms to put the dashboard back together.

Another DIY, that could’ve had worse consequences possibly

Now I am going to tell you about another instance that involved a VW transporter, where the customer broke his key into the ignition switch. Well, the van was drivable but as long as he had the plastic end of the key plus the broken one in the ignition was all that he needed. But, one day he had lost the plastic end of the key and now the van would not start. You see, the manual keys or the key with a remote attached to the key,  have a transponder chip inside which, when programmed with the vehicle the immobiliser would read the same codes stored with the key and all other security modules. Once all codes during the reading are a match, will unlock the steering column lock and allow the vehicle to start.

So what really happened here

Our customer, in this case, knew about the immobiliser, and therefore, proceeded to cutting the wires by the ignition switch in order to bypass the immobiliser and start the vehicle the old fashion way. What we had here to do, was to remove the broken key out of the ignition switch, cut a new car key and program it with the vehicle. And that concluded our job here, and our customer was left to put the wires back together. Oh, on another note, starting a vehicle the old school is at best, a thing of the past, because this is not how cars work today. I mean they work the same way but the ignition switch cannot be rigged.

As promised – the steering column lock

Mercedes Sprinter 2007 steering column lock

The steering column lock was introduced in 1995, as an element of protection for vehicles against being stolen by immobilizing the vehicle if the right key is not present when attempting to start the car. The way it works is by having the right key and by that I mean the key that has been programmed with the vehicle at all times. When the code stored within the key matches the code stored in the security modules, that is when the steering column lock will unlock and at the same time will allow the vehicle to start.

For those that are not aware, nowadays, when the steering column lock goes bad and the car would not start, the only way to start it is by either repairing the existing one, which in some cases may be possible or replace it.  

Now, the last our jobs but one for the books

Mercedes Sprinter stolen ignition switch

MERCEDES SPRINTER stolen ignition switch

By now, many of you probably know that the ignition switch for this type of van is the most stolen item. Probably as many of you did and I did the same, wondering why would someone want to steal an ignition switch? The answer that so far I found is that they’re and by they, I mean the thieves are using the ignition to get a new key with which, if they’re fast enough, would use to drive with the car away. In the picture above you can see the damages done after the ignition switch was stolen. It doesn’t have to be that way. At Car Keys Solutions, we have a way to protect the ignition switch and not only. We have many ways in which a van can be protected against stealing and breaking – ins. I will go through them in a moment. Before I do that, I would like to mention again that the ignition switch on the Mercedes Sprinters is the most desired item to steal. The time to fix that is today before is too late.

Here are some ideas on how you can protect your van:

  • deadlocks. The deadlock needs a key to be open or closed. Install on the back door low position and side door low and medium position. These types of deadlocks can be installed on the front doors as well only different designs to fit the front doors. These types of locks can be installed on most vans. The locks are different from one van to another.

    Deadlock for Ford Transit Custom 2012-2019
    deadlock Ford Transit Custom 2012-2019

  • hook deadlocks. Can be installed on many vans. Pictured Ford Transit Custom. This is an added lock security. It can be added to a low, medium or high position. The most wanted by vans owners is this lock on a high position.

    Hook deadlock for Ford Transit Custom
    hook deadlock Ford Transit

  • slam locks. The slam lock locks automatically when the door is closed.

    Mounted slamlock
    mounted slamlock

  • slam handles. The slam handle is a two pieces system protection. The first is a steel replacement handle with internal strengthening plates and the second is a slam lock.

    Slam handle for Renault Traffic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan NV300 2015 and up
    slam handle for Renault Traffic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan NV300 2015 and up

    The slamlock that will be mounted with the slam handle
    mounted slamlock

  • steel plates. The steel plates are internal or external shields for van security. An example is the handle shields – protective plates that can be mounted in front of the handles. These can be mounted on the back, side and front doors. Similar plates can be mounted on other vans which will look different as each van is different.

    Handle shield Armaplate Mercedes Sprinter 2007-2014. Can be installed on many vans and this is to protect the mechanism inside the door and prevent opening the door after punching a hole under the lock.
    armaplate Mercedes Sprinter 2007-2014

    L4V handle shield for Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Traffic, Nissan NV300. It protects handles and mechanism inside the door when puncturing the door.
    L4V handle shield for Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Traffic, Nissan NV300

    VW Transporter T5 and T6 handle shield
    VW Transporter T5 and T6 handle shield

    Inner plate for door latch mechanism or shield protection for latch mechanism for Ford Transit Custom 2012- 2020 and Ford Transit 2014 64 reg- 2020
    inner plate for door latch mechanism or shield protection for latch mechanism for Ford Transit Custom 2012- 2020 and Ford Transit 2014 64 reg- 2020

  • security driver door replacement lock with bezel. This works with central locking.

    security replock for Ford Transit Custom 2012 and up and Ford Transit 2014 64 reg – 2020
    replock for Ford Transit Custom 2012 and up and Ford Transit 2014 64 reg - 2020

  • heavy-duty padlocks. Typical padlock security door protection for the back and the side door. Fits most vehicles.

    Voche heavy-duty padlock
    Voche heavy-duty padlock

  • ignition guards. The ignition guard protects the ignition barrel from being stolen.

    Mercedes Sprinter 2006-2018 ignition switch protection
    Mercedes Sprinter 2006-2018 ignition switch protection

While all these are ways of protecting the van against break-ins, there are also ways of protecting the van against stealing the vehicle or to alert you if anyone would even try to break in. So, what are they you may ask? Well, while there is no 100% guarantee of total protection, an alarm and tracking device and a Ghost II immobiliser can be the next three additions to your van can get it hard to be messed with.

Final thought

The crime is on the rise. Actually it goes up and down. Ahh,  just messing around. But in all seriousness, there is no argument that there is enough crime out there to worry just a bit just about any tradesperson that owns a van or any van owner for that matter. In the past, those worries would’ve been something that one would have to live with, only because then,  there were not too many options. Today, that is no longer the case. There are so many possibilities to be securing a van the best way possible and not doing it, it is only by choice. So why risk it? Secure it today? You don’t know what is right for you, come and talk to us and we will advise you. Call us on 0203 393 5669 or visit us at one of our shops in